Rovers all but there
RICHMOND Rovers have one hand on the Football FNC Premier League soccer minor premiership trophy and only an inconceivable set of results in the2 final two rounds would prevent them clasping 1it with the other. Rovers played out a 2-all draw with defending premiers Byron Bay at Nielson Park, East Lismore, on Saturday. The vital competition point gives Rovers a six-point buffer over Maclean and Italo Stars, but with a far superior goal difference they are virtually guaranteed their first title since 2004, even if they lose their last two games. The game reached a dramatic climax but started slowly in oppressive heat. The first clear chance fell to Rovers striker Troy Matthews after 20 minutes, but his close-range shot went straight to the chest of Rams goalkeeper Kai Connell. The miss proved costly, allowing Byron Bay to snatch the lead 15 minutes later when Jordy Campbell used his strength to muscle his way behind the Rovers defence and slot a clean finish. Early in the second half an uncharacteristic defensive error from a 'flu-ridden Aaron Richter-Steers gifted an opportunity to Rovers' predatory striker Matthew Olley. Richter-Steers misjudged a massive clearance kick from Rovers 'keeper Andrew Marshall, allowing Olley to pounce on the bouncing ball, turn his marker and place his shot across the face of Connell into the far corner. As players tired in the heat, play opened up and chances came at both ends, with Campbell unlucky not to put the Rams ahead with a powerful shot that hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced just in front of the line. The sting in the tail came with two2 penalties 1within two minutes in the shadows of full-time. First a Rovers hand ball allowed Richter-Steers to slot home the dot shot for what seemed a match winner, but almost immediately Rovers were awarded a dubious penalty when Troy Matthews collapsed in the Rams box. Matthew Olley handled the pressure to take the chance, but even Rovers assistant coach Brian Bugden was happy to describe the penalty as 'soft'. Olley was among Rovers' best, while Adam Gray was strong in midfield and defenders Joel Saye and Mitchell Flower were as solid as ever. Byron Bay drop from second to fourth and their place in the top three and with it hopes of defending their major premiership are now in jeopardy. Bobcats back in form !MACLEAN returned to its winning ways after a two-game slump, ending the semi-final hopes of Bangalow with a 3-0 win on the Bluedogs' home turf. It took the Bobcats 30 minutes to could crack a stubborn Bangalow defence, with Tom Usher crossing for Aaron Bylos to use his chest to control the ball before hitting a sweet volley past goalkeeper Alex Pratt. A Kevin Crofton cross set up Travis Armstrong at the far post for their second by half-time, with Usher again figuring in their third with a swirling cross that deceived the 'keeper and sailed over his head into the net. Usher had a strong game on debut in a good indication of the Bobcats' depth, as they move up to second place and look to secure a home semi-final. Lennox prevails !LENNOX HEAD still clings to fifth place after grinding out a 2-0 win over Ballina at Saunders Park, Ballina. The Sharks prevailed in a game that never rose to any great heights with goals early in each half, the first from an Andrew Lundie cross that was met with a far post header by Troy Percival. Another far post header from Mike Raeburn soon after the restart wrapped up the win for the Sharks, but with their final two games against Byron Bay and Rovers, their place in the top five remains under threat from Goonellabah. Flankers Andrew Lundie and Rameesh Kassim had big games for the Sharks, along with defender Peter Luke and striker James Everingham. Everingham replaced Paul Kirkland, who was rested for the two big games ahead. Clint Colless stood out for Ballina. Stars take points !ITALO STARS' hopes of a top-three finish are looking good after a dour 2-1 away win over Lismore Workers gave them a share of second place. Craig Wiblen opened Stars' account and it was 2-0 by half-time after Wayne Mortimer scored their second. Workers hit back early in the second half when Dean Casey cut in from the left flank to hit an angled shot, but from then on wayward finishing left the scoreline unchanged. Best for Stars were Wiblen and Mortimer, along with defender Matt Weir, while for Workers Anthony Alvos again was tireless in midfield and Anthony Alexander did a good job marking Brenton Mumford. The result confirms Workers' relegation, but the Redmen still have a chance of staying in the top ranks next season if they can win the September play-offs for the vacancy created by the departure of Maclean. In a nutshell Premier League: Rovers 2 drew with Byron Bay 2, Maclean 3 d Bangalow 0, Lennox Head 2 d Ballina 0, Stars 2 d Workers 1, Goonellabah 3 d Burringbar 0 on forfeit. Premier League points: Rovers 36, Maclean 30, Stars 30, Byron Bay 29, Lennox Head 27, Goonellabah 24, Bangalow 21, Ballina 17, Workers 9, Burringbar 4.